NEW DELHI: Starting June 21, when the revised Covid vaccination policy comes into effect, all adults in India will be entitled for walk-in inoculations against coronavirus at vaccination centres in both the government and private sectors.
As of now, people in 18–44-year age group can receive jabs only after booking appointments in advance through the CoWIN portal, except for some rural pockets where on site registration for this population group has been permitted.
A day after announcing a significant change in Covid vaccination policy under which 75% of the total vaccines in India will now be directly procured by the Centre and supplied to states, the Union government on Tuesday also said that it will, however, continue to prefer high priority population groups for inoculations.
But states, as per the latest guidelines, will be free to decide their own prioritisation within 18–44-year age group, factoring in the vaccine supply schedule.
The revised policy says that while all citizens irrespective of their income status are entitled to free vaccination, those “who have the ability to pay are encouraged to use private hospital’s vaccination centres”.
The guidelines say that to promote the spirit of “Lok Kalyan”, use of non-transferable electronic vouchers which can be redeemed at private vaccination centers, will be encouraged.
“This would enable people to financially support vaccination of economically weaker sections at private vaccination centres,” the government said.
For the Centre, the priority population groups include healthcare and front-line workers, those above 45 years and those whose second dose is due.
Also, coronavirus vaccine doses provided by the Centre to states will be based on criteria such as population, disease burden and the progress of vaccination with a warning that wastage of vaccine will affect the allocation negatively.
Some experts, while pointing out that the document by the Union Health Ministry, without explicitly saying it, hints that vaccines in government hospitals should continue to be given to the high priority population till their full vaccination coverage is achieved.
“And that I think is a pragmatic thing to do,” said health systems specialist Chandrakant Lahariya.
“In fact I would have preferred it if the vaccination for the 18-44 age group would have been put on hold till vaccination for the rest of the adult population is completed and vaccine supply issue is fixed. That would have really streamlined the Covid inoculation process.”
Meanwhile, the Centre also defended its decision to allow private hospitals to keep procuring 25% of the total Covid vaccines available in the country.
“In order to incentivize production by vaccine manufacturers and encourage new vaccines, domestic vaccine manufacturers are given the option to also provide vaccines directly to private hospitals,” it said.
It added that states would aggregate the demand of private hospitals keeping in view equitable distribution between large and small private hospitals and regional balance, based on which the Union government will facilitate supply of these vaccines to the private hospitals and their payment through the National Health Authority’s electronic platform.
“This would enable the smaller and remote private hospitals to obtain timely supply of vaccines, and further equitable access and regional balance,” the government said.